Debate surrounding global future of work has been gathering tremendous momentum over the years, and MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) has been paving the way for change-makers to inspire, create jobs and thus impact the economy through technology. Last year, IDE launched MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) as a platform for recognizing and rewarding organizations that are promoting technology as a vehicle for positive change in a world where automation poses potential challenges for employment. At this year’s IIC, over $1 million was awarded to organizations (both for profit and non-profit) that are committed to inclusion of technological innovations for economic prosperity of base and middle income earners.
IDE has been committed to examining the relationship between digital transformation and workers, as well as businesses. They identify and empower organizations that are striving towards inclusive innovation as artificial intelligence, robotics and digitalization evolve across all sectors of work. IDE’s expertise lie in technology and innovation, with a team led by Director Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Co-director Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan. Brynjolfsson and McAfee have been at the forefront of work on digital transformation and employment, having co-authored Race Against the Machine and The Second Machine Age. IDE hosts and supports a wide array of events such as competitions, roundtables and conferences, in an effort to foster new, visionary ideas. Through their work, IDE aims to change the conversation from one that revolves around the fear of technology taking away jobs, to one that embraces technology as an opportunity to create jobs and revolutionize economies.
“The grand challenge of our era is to use digital technologies to create not only prosperity, but shared prosperity,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, “We created the Inclusive Innovation Challenge to recognize and reward the many amazing people and organizations that are working to accomplish this mission.”
“With the IIC, we’re celebrating the entrepreneurs and innovators who are demonstrating so many different ways to put powerful technology to use to improve people’s economic prospects,” adds Andrew McAfee, “Our award winners and other entrants show us that broadly shared prosperity is possible, which makes a great antidote to pessimism and negativity.”
Adapting through re-training and upskilling
The evolution of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation bring forth efficiency, higher productivity and more opportunities for economic development. However, these benefits can often be overshadowed by the concerns that business leaders, policy makers and employees have towards the future of the human workforce. Organizations such as the ones recognized by IIC are striving to change this mindset through their work. For example, digital talent platforms such as LaunchCode, enable the skills of workers to be resourcefully matched to jobs, thus promoting efficiency. Platforms that increase access to technology, such as AdmitHub, create new income opportunities for workers. As digitization progresses, the World Economic Forum (WEF) stresses the importance of having a ‘liquid workforce’. WEF defines a ‘liquid workforce’ as one that is able to adapt to technological changes, through retraining and acquisition of new skills.
Google’s $1 billion commitment to inclusive innovation
This year’s IIC Awards featured an incredible array of promising organizations that are impacting this movement through scalable solutions at grassroots levels. The event, held in Boston on the 12th of October, was attended by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. Other notable leaders from technology, policy, academia and business sectors were also present at the event. On the heels of IIC’s remarkable success, Eric Schmidt announced a $1 billion commitment from Google towards the initiative. Next year, MIT plans to expand IIC to host challenges across five continents.
A panel of 160 expert judges reviewed applications from nearly 1,000 organizations from around the world. 16 top competitors then advanced to the Champion Committee, competing for four grand prizes worth $150,000 each. The remaining 12 runners-up were awarded $35,000 each, across the four categories of: Financial Inclusion, Income Growth & Job Creation, Skills & Matching, and Technology Access.
The grand prize winners:
LaunchCode (Skills & Matching Category) : Grows the tech workforce in the U.S. through free education in coding for jobseekers who are lacking the necessary credentials.
AdmitHub (Technology Access Category): Has designed an AI virtual assistant for college students, offering 24/7 personalized support.
EFL (Financial Inclusion Category): Provides an alternative credit scoring for lenders, applying psychometrics and behavioral science to assess how personality drives credit risk of borrowers.
Logistimo (Income & Jobs Category): A digital auction-based platform that connects demand to local capacity in rural villages to mitigate constraints of availability, reliability and affordability of transport.
The 12 runners-up:
African Renewable Energy Distributor Ltd (Technology Access category)
AID:Tech (Financial Inclusion category)
Digital Citizen Fund (Technology Access category)
dot Learn (Technology Access category)
Hogaru (Income Growth & Job Creation category)
iHub (Skills & Matching category)
Leap Skills Academy (Skills & Mentoring category)
New Day (Skills & Matching category)
Nomanini (Financial Inclusion category)
SkillSmart (Income Growth & Job Creation category)
Tala (Financial Inclusion category)
Tuteria (Income Growth & Job Creation category)
While technology stands to impact every job across all industries, digital disruption must be seen as an opportunity for success through visionary and innovative ways to define the future of work. As an alternative to fearing unemployment in the digital age, we must focus on developing and transforming skill sets to upskill each and every individual so that they may withstand the challenges brought forth. If we look at automation from the perspective of transformation rather than replacement, we can identify the influx of new roles that are emerging as a result of innovative technology.
To find out more about the IIC winners and its mission, please visit: www.MITinclusiveinnovation.com
Follow MIT IDE on Twitter: @MIT_IDE